Seamless Bay Area
Joint Venture in 2022 formed a strategic partnership with Seamless Bay Area, a project designed to transform the Bay Area’s fragmented public transit into a unified and equitable system. Founded in 2018 as a transit rider-driven grassroots group, the project is committed to building a diverse movement for change through policy reforms. Joint Venture aligned with Seamless Bay Area to advocate for the passage of SB 917 as a bill co-sponsor and to raise awareness of the benefits of a world-class transit system. While SB 917 was quashed at the Assembly Appropriations suspense file hearing August 11, 2022 and will not proceed to the Assembly for a vote, progress has been made and Joint Venture will remain an advocate for transit reform.
While this bill has stalled, the initiatives for which it would have set deadlines — fare integration, integrated wayfinding, a connected network plan, and real-time data — are all still in the works. Joint Venture will continue to be actively involved with leadership and advocacy for this vision, including for re-introduction of the bill.
Joint Venture, along with several Bay Area civic groups jointly released a Transit Transformation 1-Year Report Card tracking the region’s progress toward integrating the region’s 27 transit systems. The report card is being released on the one-year anniversary of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s adoption of the ambitious Transformation Action Plan aimed at growing transit ridership.
What are we doing?
Imagine an integrated San Francisco Bay Area transit network, where customers come first and are no longer confronted by a frustrating mess of uncoordinated fares and schedules. Seamless Bay Area seeks to transform the region into a unified and equitable system through policy reforms such as SB 917.
SB 917 would have required the 27 independent transit agencies operating in the nine-county Bay Area to work together to develop and adopt a Coordinated Network Plan (CNP) by the end of 2023. The CNP would identify desired service levels and frequencies and target travel times that can optimize connectivity across the region. The CNP would eventually support the creation of a unified regional bus rapid transit (BRT) system.
An integrated fare structure — to be developed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) in consultation with Bay Area transit agencies — would make transit rates fairer, simpler, and more equitable.
The vision sets deadlines for a common transit wayfinding and mapping system, and for real-time data standards to ensure bus and train arrival information is universally available and accurate for riders across the region.
Why are we doing it?
Currently, independent transit agencies do not formally coordinate schedules and service. They also use different fare structures, wayfinding signs, mapping, and branding systems that confuse and intimidate riders.
This project will help transform the system into a seamless experience for the public, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving access to jobs and housing.
SB917 was introduced in February 2022 by California state Senator Josh Becker, D-San Mateo.
Assemblymember Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, is a principal coauthor of SB 917. Other coauthors include Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, Assemblymember Alex Lee, D-San Jose, and Assemblymember Marc Levine, D-Marin County, and Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco.
What are the latest developments?
- Working with the ‘Survive & Thrive’ coalition of civic and rider groups, transit agencies, and MTC, Seamless Bay Area is advocating the state legislature to identify badly needed operations funding in the upcoming state budget.
- As federal COVID relief funds draw down and transit ridership remains well below pre-pandemic levels, cumulative revenue deficits for all 27 Bay Area transit agencies are estimated around $3 billion over the next 5 years if no action is taken. Seamless Bay Area is supporting MTC’s recently approved state budget funding request, which calls for allocating several existing sources of non-transit funding, including federal highway funds, to transit operations, in addition to allowing for temporary flexing of existing transit capital funds, to meet the Bay Area’s needs over the near term and prevent service cuts, and fund initiatives to improve service and regrow ridership.
- Seamless Bay Area has been leading grassroots organizing to get transit riders to speak up and contact their state representatives, participating in press events with local and state legislators, and meeting with legislators to communicate the importance of saving transit. This will be especially important over the next two months as the state budget deadline draws nearer.
- Joint Venture and several Bay Area civic groups jointly released a Transit Transformation 1-Year Report Card tracking the region’s progress toward integrating the region’s 27 transit systems.
- Senate Bill 917 was quashed at the Assembly Appropriations suspense file hearing August 11 and will not proceed to the Assembly for a vote.
- On June 28, the bill passed unanimously through the Assembly Transportation Committee . BART and VTA boards fully backed the bill with amendments.
- SB 917 passed through the Senate 29-2 on May 23.
- It was passed unanimously by the Senate Transportation Committee on April 26, and passed the Senate Appropriations Committee May 19.
- So far, the MTC, AC Transit Board, and BART boards each voted to adopt “Support if Amended” positions on the bill, with proposed amendments.
- Joint Venture co-hosted a webinar on Seamless Transit. Watch the video.
What are the next steps?
While SB 917 stalled, the initiatives for which it would have set deadlines — fare integration, integrated wayfinding, a connected network plan, and real-time data — are all still in the works. Joint Venture will continue actively involved with leadership and advocacy for this vision, including for re-introduction of the bill.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission — in conjunction with BART and all other transit agencies participating in the Clipper fare payment system — have launched a two-year pilot program to study the impact of a single pass that will provide 50,000 Bay Area residents free access to all bus, rail, and ferry services in the nine-county region. The Clipper BayPass will initially be distributed to participating students at San Francisco State University, San Jose State University, the University of California’s Berkeley campus and Santa Rosa Junior College.
- As we work in Sacramento to ensure state funding, local efforts for a regional funding measure are also in initial planning phases. Seamless Bay Area has been closely working with our partners so that any regional funding measure helps build back transit ridership with frequent, affordable, and well-coordinated service in addition to much needed governance reform to achieve these goals.
- The MTC has spent the early months of 2023 engaging in stakeholder outreach, polling, and drafting goals and analysis of revenue options. Polling outreach shows that voters view transit as important, but demand a more seamless system. Broader public engagement slated to start in the summer. The most feasible timeline for potential regional measure appears to be the November 2026 ballot - but agencies will require money before then if they are to avoid service cuts.
Where do I find out more?
Learn more about Seamless Bay Area at www.seamlessbayarea.org.
Contact Ian Griffiths, Policy Director at .